Friday, 23 September 2011

Home birth in London, 2011

I got a letter from King's Hospital the other day asking if I would mind sharing my birth story with them. It's something I've been meaning to write down for Eliza anyway and so I was quite grateful for the prompt. A birth story is a strange thing: go looking on the web and you will find scores and scores of women have taken the time to write down fairly hefty blow-by-blow accounts of how they brought their babies into the world. For me it is a subject of endless fascination. In fact, the first birth story I read was when I was about ten, written by the mother of one of my best friends, describing in gratifyingly strong detail the actual marvellous truth of how she, my friend, had been born. I think that planted the seed of my interest. Any children I had, I knew that writing it down would be part of the birth. I wanted to hold on to their birth story - and pass it down to them.

Now it is 2011. My friend's birth was in 1982 and when her mother, a brilliant thinker and doer, wrote it she was following the example of those fearless feminists of the seventies: nothing hidden by prudery or ashamed of being out and proud and womanly. I wonder when women first started writing down these birth stories of theirs, because although I think of it as a modern phenomenon, a refusal to be abashed by something so primal, any woman with a birth story to tell and the power of writing must have been tempted, if she could only find the time and privacy to write. It is still difficult, though, because what we are dealing with is the body, the very last thing to sit comfortably in words. I reckon that when people told stories and hadn't the choice of writing them down there was probably also this love of the birth story. I imagine it fell to the most garrulous and earthy of women to relate these tales. Perhaps they were also the midwives. 'Midwife to the tale', now where did I hear that phrase?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Paparazzi Studios - closed?

Bring out your best widow's weeds and wear black for a respectable period. If the news is true and the last comment to arrive is correct, then the death knell has sounded for poor old shysters, Paparazzi Studios.

Don't quaff your sherry and down the canapes too eagerly, however. These people bear a remarkable similarity to cockroaches and do tend to keep on resurrecting themselves after you thought you'd shooed them off for good.

It was only last week that I got a phone call from them, my second free makeover in two years (are they trying to tell me something?). I wasn't nearly as brave as I'd hoped to be in telling them to piss off, but I did mention my blog. Maybe it was the blog wot dun it. Stranger things have happened.

But in the meantime, do get in touch if you've come across these scalliwags. Perhaps you know where they've gone next, these masters of makeover and disguise. If so, let me know.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Paparazzi Studios - another scam?

I can't believe I never posted this up on the blog. It's a former Studio London employee spilling the beans. He/She wants to remain anonymous, so all I can say is Mr/Mrs Anonymous, I am very grateful to you for gifting me (isn't that the parlance nowadays?) the gift of closure. Now read on...

Before I start, I'd appreciate it if (should you choose to publish anything I mention) you kept my name from the record. I'm a (thankfully) former employee of Studio London's.

I should probably begin by saying that Studio London has recently been taken into administration - they are now masquerading under the name Paparazzi Studio.

The comment you posted replies to about a month ago is largely a load of rubbish. When Studio London/Paparazzi Studio make a booking, they take a deposit for two reasons - firstly to try and ensure you turn up, and secondly to attempt to make *some* money out of you in the event that you decide not to pay them any more money for photographs (they will try to give you a print or digital image in return for keeping your deposit; though they will [begrudgingly] return your deposit if you are adamant that you don't want to buy anything.)

There is no 'cost associated with' reserving a photographer or allocating a time slot. All hair, make-up, photography, and sales are done broadly on a first-come, first-served basis. If you don't turn up, the photographer isn't going to sit on his arse for the time it would have taken to take your pictures; he'll simply be allocated someone else (and the make-up artists, photographers, and hair stylists have no idea who they're going to see right up to a few minutes before they see them).

As a matter of fact, the company is completely reliant on people not turning up - the management has a policy of overbooking, to the point that if even 75% of the people booked in on any given day were to turn up, the studio would have an incredibly difficult time dealing with them all, leading to the customers having a very disappointing experience, and the latest ones (those with appointments in the early afternoon) probably either a) waiting around until very late in the evening (after ten o'clock, in some cases) to be shown their pictures and given the hard sell, or b) after having had a further (refundable, but completely unnecessary) £50 'holding deposit' attempted to be taken from them, being told to come back another day in order to be shown their pictures and given the hard sell. Failure to be shown one's pictures and be given the hard sell results in the loss of one's deposit.

I should also say that the people who work 'on the front line' of the company, and actually deal with the customers, do, in general, an excellent job, given the farcical way in which the company is run. They are aware of the dubious business practices they are employing, and are as dismayed by them as the customers are - but are usually unable to do much about them without going out of their way to deceive or placate the management staff (which does occasionally happen). They are not paid anywhere near the amount they deserve for the hours they work and for what they have to put up with - but I suppose that that is true for many jobs. Management (or 'directors', as they prefer to be called), on the other hand, are paid far too much for what they do - but again, that is true for many companies.

I think that's all for now.

Monday, 13 September 2010


The following turned up in my comments box. Am I being paranoid, or does it seem to you that it could have been written by someone in the pay of Studio London? I publish it in the interests of fairness, but in answer to the questions it lays out...

a) why on earth indeed? Read back through the blog to find out. I was feeding the baby when, out of the blue, the phone rang and some lovely-voiced lady told me I'd won a prize.

b) none of that makes the slightest difference to me, the customer - or should that be 'prizewinner'. Potential sales are just that - potential. And I shouldn't forfeit any money to, or be made to feel guilty by a company that can't cover its own costs as a photography studio.

And if you're not saying their methods are right, stop defending them! Thank you for writing in, though, and do get in touch if I've misrepresented you. Now over to you.

"I read all these comments and two things spring to mind.

a) why on earth do you give you card details to a person you don't know, from a company you haven't contacted and whose product you're not sure if you'll buy?

b) do you realise that when you book a time slot for your photo session, they have a cost associated with it? They need to reserve a photographer and allocate a time slot. If you then don't turn up, they have lost a potential sale and still have to pay the photographer...

I'm not saying that their methods are right (although their are legal), but they aren't any different from any other makeover photo company or business that wants to get you in their shop so they can sell you their product."

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Oh dear no

I take it all back - I'm not about to write about Mary Queen of Shops. After the first episode about the bakers' and the second about the village shop and the third about the greengrocers' - all subjects close to my heart - my interest waned. DIY? Interior decoration? Hairdressing? Leave it out. There was nothing to it, either. It seemed that Mary Portas just got the staff to pose for huge photos of themselves (to go on the walls of the revamped store - how very B&Q), changed the uniform and gave the owner a big bone-crunching hug. Sniff! And move on...

Don't watch this space, in other words. I think I'm a SAD blogger - seasonally affected and unlikely to write much in the summer months. I don't need the warmth of my overheated laptop to keep me going in July. Neither, I'll warrant, do you.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Seduced by the retail

I feel like I'm poaching from Exitainment's territory to do so, but what I really really want to write about is a t.v. programme called 'Mary Queen of Shops'.

It's not far from this blog's brief, in actual fact, since what Mary Portas cares about is shopping and, whether it's charity shops or greengrocers, when it comes to my local high street, so do I. I agree with her: I don't want everywhere to be cloned by the supermarkets and the chain shops. Kilburnia may not exist as an entity, but its many streets are my stamping ground, and where I have to walk this talk of mine every day.

So watch this space - or just put me on your blogroll and watch that space - and I will endeavour to deliver the goods, with the help of my new retail guru, Mary Portas. Gosh, even her name has the ring of quality to it.

Friday, 28 May 2010

A Jarvis moment

Having recieved a 'Cease & Desist' notice for my crusading work against a ruthless band of petty theives (fly-by-night photographers), I am taking time out from the blogosphere.

While I'm gone, why not have a read of this lovely Groucho Marx letter? I ask you, was there ever a word to be said with more relish than shyster?